Exclusive: Zolani of Freshlyground speaks to Lifestyle

May 14, 2010 – It’s been a mad dash for Zolani and her Freshlyground bandmates since they launched their latest album Radio Africa on Labour Day.

They’ve been getting cat-calls from all over Joburg, Cape Town and Durban and they’ve been more than happy to flirt back with the success that has come with it.

I managed to get a hold of lead-singer Zolani Mahola before all that excitement. Being the week before the album launch and her having returned from Los Angeles where she was recording the Waka Waka video with Shakira, it wasn’t any less chaotic…

On Thursday morning, she’d had to cancel her dance lesson to nurse herself out of bed – nasty flu you see – but she was kind enough to engage me on Skype.

So here’s a little bit of her story. Zolani is 28 years old and loves the fact that when she sings she sounds like a kid… see here. She has a middle name that starts with ‘M’ which she crammed in the dust-bin after ruling that it was boring. Something else she finds as boring as her name-of-ago is knitting. (Hear, hear).

She loves to goof around too; dance to good music, crack jokes and play the fool, something that comes out all too clearly if you happen to check out the big smile in some of her videos.

But I guess she has a lot to laugh about, starting with the seven-man band Freshlyground that she sings lead for. This is a super talented multi-national and multi-racial band that has just touched the sky.


One of the features in their sky is the fact that their Waka Waka collabo has been chosen as the official anthem of the FIFA World Cup 2010. Fine, a few haters might have jumped off the band-wagon but here in Kenya it is still going strong.

Zolani tells me that her and Kyla (band-mate) usually go for contemporary dance classes with a guy who works specifically with their music to choreograph moves.

“It’s the usual, although one of the moves he taught us ended up in the Shakira video,” she said.

Show after show after show is the order of the day now and Zolani is thankful for the exhaustion.

“I think it usually works well and is balanced (schedule). There are some exhausting periods but it’s a double-edged sword I guess… It’s good to be working.”

It hasn’t always been like this. Zolani says that though she’s been singing all her life, the meaning of music changed for her at the age of 23.

“I got involved with a band in 2002. It was just fun (at the time), but I was careless and was fired. They were right… I was a stoner and didn’t take it seriously enough,” she says, admitting however that she wasn’t broken up about having to leave the band.

What does a ‘stoner’ mean? She calls it imbibing the herb.


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